AfricaRice recently launched a powerful decision-support tool, called RiceAdvice-WeedManager, to help African rice farmers find the most effective and cost-efficient weed management strategies that match their specific farming conditions and available resources.
Weeds are serious constraints to rice production in sub-Saharan Africa across all rice environments and are the biggest drain on farm resources. Annual weed-inflicted yield losses in rice in Africa are conservatively estimated at 842,000 tons (paddy) under irrigated conditions, 756,000 tons under rainfed lowland conditions, and 648,000 tons under rainfed upland conditions, amounting to at least USD 1.5 billion per year.
Surveys by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) indicate that farmers perceive weed infestation as the largest single cause of yield loss in rice in sub-Saharan Africa. As most of them cannot afford herbicides and few have access to mechanical weeders, farmers are left with no other option to protect their crop against weeds but manual weeding. Manual weeding consumes more labor than any other single farm activity and most farmers rely heavily on family labor for this task.
It is estimated that improved weed control, when combined with good soil fertility management, could raise rice yields by 1 ton per hectare. Improved weed management is therefore vital to prevent losses in rice yield and production costs. For this, rice farmers in sub-Saharan Africa need timely and reliable advice to make better decisions on the most appropriate weed control options. But, at present, they have limited access to such information.
AfricaRice recently launched a powerful decision-support tool, called RiceAdvice-WeedManager, to help African rice farmers find the most effective and cost-efficient weed management strategies that match their specific farming conditions and available resources. Potentially, all rice farmers in sub-Saharan Africa could benefit from this interactive tool as it could be used across rice-growing environments from rainfed uplands to fully irrigated lowlands, thus leading to significant improvements in efficiency, productivity, and income.
The WeedManager app has been developed in close association with Co-Capacity, a knowledge management organization based in The Netherlands, with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Rice Agri-food Systems. It is strongly based on research findings of AfricaRice and its partners, which have long been involved in developing efficient, affordable, and feasible weed management strategies for resource-poor rice farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. The app is now being field-tested with farmers in Nigeria and Tanzania with the help of the Competitive African Rice Initiative, commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“We are planning to organize a series of training programs on the use of the WeedManager app, which is an exciting tool for weed management,” said Dr. Kazuki Saito, an agronomist at AfricaRice.
The app provides a range of adapted recommendations for weed management—before, during, and after the main rice-cropping season—based on information entered for each participating farmer relating to his/her field conditions, available resources (financial, human, equipment, and natural), and prevailing weed problems. Each farmer decides on the recommendations to adopt and can then be further advised and monitored by service providers.
“The WeedManager app stimulates the adoption of targeted and integrated weed management practices by smallholder rice farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, helping reduce their reliance on manual weeding,” explains Jonne Rodenburg, the former AfricaRice agronomist who spearheaded the development of the app. “This contributes to sustainable productivity enhancement leading to food security and income generation.”
The app can be used by farmers, extension workers, private rice agri-business companies, development agencies, and other stakeholders interested in obtaining expert advice on weed management for rice production. It can also open opportunities for young professionals to serve as service providers by delivering personalized recommendations generated by the app to smallholder rice farmers and assisting farmers during the implementation of the recommendations.
The WeedManager app is complementary to the farmer-to-farmer instruction videos produced by AfricaRice and its partners on weed management, Striga management, safe and efficient herbicide application, and the use of mechanical weeders in rice. (Watch the videos.)
The WeedManager app is free and can be downloaded to any Android smartphone or tablet from Google Play. It is currently available in English and French but other languages are planned. The WeedManager app uses the same login data as the RiceAdvice app earlier launched by AfricaRice. (See RiceAdvice: An app tailor-made for African farmers).
Ms. Mohapatra is the head of Marketing & Communications at AfricaRice.